Monthly Archives: August 2018

Dear White People

Dear White People,

Hello, my name is Justin Schleider. I am a white male. I am writing this specifically for the white people who are participating in the #ClearTheAir book chat for White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. We are entering a journey together that will change us. I have read the book, and was ready for the book. Some of us may be ready, while others may not be ready. Regardless, this book will change you.

Our students of color are being harmed by us. This occurs because of our actions as well as our inactions. Please keep this central during our journey. I will operate under the assumption that the rest of you, much like myself, did not get into education to hurt people. That is called intent. Our intentions were good.

However, WE ARE HARMING ALL OF OUR STUDENTS when we do not understand the roles history, discrimination and race play out in our classes. That is called impact. Impact matters more than intention. To put it in a common phrase, “Hell was paved with good intentions.” To put it bluntly. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t intentionally hurting our students, it simply matters that we are harming them.

I used to think that I was not a white supremacist. I do not use the n-word nor do I wear a white robe with a hood to meetings. It is easy to understand those actions are hateful. We can proudly say, “that isn’t us.”

We are the ones who have biases hidden so deep that we aren’t always aware that we have them. This quote from Robin DiAngelo allows us to understand how this happens. “While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream culture”. (link)

WE ARE ENTERING THIS JOURNEY AS WHITE SUPREMACISTS. Get comfortable with that uncomfortable idea. This will help you not feel judged as a person because all white people are already white supremacists. All we are doing is finding out where it lies in us and then addressing it.

Here is my final quote from Robin DiAngelo, “Whites have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color).” (link) This journey will be tough on us. I have already watched as white people I like have had their thoughts scrutinized and pushed back on in a way that has to be uncomfortable. It feels like being attacked. I have been there. I have felt attacked.

Instead of feeling attacked we should do what Tyler states in this tweet:

This feedback that makes us defensive is actually a gift that will allow us to help be better teachers and educators for ALL of our students.

My charge to all of my fellow white people out there is to remember first and foremost that by participating in this chat, we are trying to better ourselves. This means putting our egos second to our super-egos. We need to allow our social consciousness to be penetrated to the point that we will see what others have seen for years. We have come here to be pushed in our thinking. Allow that to happen! Listen when people are spending their resources on you. Don’t be mad, be glad!

Secondly, let us white people hold each other accountable for our words and actions. Why should the PoC (People of Color) do all the heavy lifting? We need to start stepping up and saying why the words and actions of our white peers are align with white supremacy. This public action will continue to create a wave of change that is necessary throughout all of education.

Watch this video where Jay Smooth explains how to properly do this.

Lastly, let’s not become another example of white fragility. I have included myself in this letter because I have been fragile and I may become fragile again. It will be as hard for me to do this on our journey as it will be for you. Together we can make some real progress in our awareness of how we are harming people in this world. Let’s not waste it.

Sincerely,

Justin Schleider

 

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The Binary of Good vs. Evil

Growing up things were always taught to me in binaries. Things were good or bad. Safe or unsafe. Happy or sad. There was little talk of things being gray. This may be because of how our brains work. One of my favorite rules in the Brain Rules book by Dr. John Medina is that:

“We pay attention to things like emotions, threats and sex. Regardless of who you are, the brain pays a great deal of attention to these questions: Can I eat it? Will it eat me? Can I mate with it? Will it mate with me? Have I seen it before?”

We had to rapidly judge things in the past because our survival depended on us being able to put things in the good or bad categories.

This brings us to Senator John McCain dying yesterday on August 25th, 2018. In his death I saw the binary being put forward. He was a war hero and prisoner of war! Obviously a good man.

Senator McCain was also the most vocal proponent for the Iraq War which was a huge mistake. McCain himself understood and accepted that he was a main architect of the war and had a huge burden to bear in that travesty. How can you call a man who advocated for an unjust war good? He was obviously a bad man.

The truth as always is the gray in between. There may be a spectrum of more good vs less good. I have read enough history to understand that there are no true heroes that were perfect. Everyone is fallible. The degree of our sins may vary as well as the perspective we view their actions through. I can’t imagine a citizen of Iraq believes Senator McCain can be judged as being more good than bad. Those of us in America who didn’t see the horror of the war caused or felt any ramifications of it may want to view him differently.

As always this leads me to the idea of racism. If someone does or says something I identify them as racist and put them in the bad category. When I do this it perpetuates that only bad people are racist. After reading White Fragility and understanding that it is impossible to be raised in America without drinking the white supremacy water this binary changes. We are all racist to some degree. The more we work on it the closer we get toward the side of good. The truth is we will never fully be there. The best we can hope for is that we get as far away from the bad spectrum as possible.

 

 

SHAPE America: Diversity Inclusion Equity

Preface: I support SHAPE America. I am a part of SHAPE America. This should be read with a critical lens not a negative one. Our organization is making strides in the right direction. This brings me hope and joy.

SHAPE America is THE national organization for Health and Physical Education Teachers.

“We provide programs, resources, and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs.”

The organization is very interested in diversity, inclusion, and equity. I approach this initiative with some hesitation. The reason for this is that people have been fighting this fight for at least 20 years! There was mostly silence from them. I was at the national convention in Boston where they placed a social justice 6-hour panel on the far side of the hotel. There was not a representative there to even greet the presenters. It was apparent that no thought or effort went into supporting the speakers.

SHAPE America did not seem to want to challenge the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal culture in the past. This may be changing. The CEO is a woman (first woman CEO of SHAPE I believe) and the President is an openly gay woman. It still puzzles me that we (I am a member of SHAPE) have not embraced the LGBTQIA community when we have so many members from it. I know sexuality is still taboo in some areas. This makes it even more important for the organization to be explicit in its support of the community.

Look at the vision and mission of our organization:

Our Vision

A nation where all children are prepared to lead healthy, physically active lives.

Our Mission

To advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance and sport.

You will not find a broader less defined vision and mission out there. Dillon Landi pointed out that there is nothing about diversity, equity, or inclusion in either the vision or mission. Where does it address diversity, inclusion, and equity? This push cannot be something that is a checkbox or a one year mission. This must be an ongoing journey that never ends. That means major changes must be made. SHAPE has been notoriously slow-moving on everything in its history. School is funneling students into prison and SHAPE has to figure out if the comma should go before or after the phrase. The red tape of an organization is hard to cut through. Most of the time it is necessary in order to ensure quality products and resources are created. Other times it just allows the system to bury anything that challenges the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal, wealthy culture. It will drag its feet waiting years to act on anything. By that time either someone has created that resource or they have successfully buried that idea into the ground.

SHAPE has created a diversity, inclusion, equity Voxer group and already has special interest groups you can join when you become a member. I joined the special interest groups but have no idea what they are or what they do. I don’t receive emails nor have I saw any evidence that they have produced anything. I may be wrong and if people do show me that I will update this with the appropriate evidence showing that. I personally know that I have never been contacted about these groups and I have checked them off in my profile.

Some people want to majorly disrupt the sytem. They see there are problems from the vision to every resource that does not authentically talk about power, gender, race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and ableism. I agree that there is a problem when the most powerful organization does not consider intersectionality when it produces their standards and resources. I do not believe that a major disruption to the system is feasible nor do I think the organization is ready to be a phoenix and rise from the ashes stronger and with more purpose than their past.

Dillon Landi lays out this vox where he talks about 5 major points that he feels SHAPE America can take actionable steps in order to meet their goal of diversity inclsion and equity. Here are the 5 main subjects he addresses.

  1. Keynotes
  2. documents
  3. citation of PETE
  4. research council
  5. grants

I would listen to this. There is a lot of widsdom right there.

Here are some actionable steps I would like to see happen:

  1. Everyone from the CEO to the board of directors to the social media specialists is required to take basic courses on the history and impact of intersectionality. This will not solve the problems that SHAPE is having but it will give everyone a solid base to see how individuals and systems conspire against anyone considered outside the norm. You can not address any part of intersectionality if you don’t understand the big picture.
  2. Kennedra Tucker is given the resources to create a podcast on social justice. She is willing and there is a need. There is no need to create obstacles. Find the right people willing to work and get out of their way. Also, pay her.
  3. Keynotes should look like the students that are being taught by Physical education and Health teachers. This means black and brown speakers, speakers that are not Olympians or athletic champions. The speakers should also be explicit about their message that furthers SHAPE’s goal of #die. Dr. Martha James Hassan would be someone who understands that message and can package it in a way that resonates with people. She works at an HBCU! (historically black college/university) That alone is all the proof you need.
  4. The vision and mission need to include diversity, inclusion, and equity.
  5. SHAPE should reach out to GLSEN and Tolerance.org to create resources for teachers. The resources could link to those organizations or others. The bottom line is that SHAPE doesn’t need to reinvent or invent the wheel. Organizations are already doing great things in regards to intersectionality. USE THEM!
  6. Create ways to get BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) involved in the organization. This may mean creating grants to get to the national convention or free memberships for Title 1 schools.
  7. It’s not enough to get marginalized people to the party. We have to create a culture where every marginalized group has piece of the organization. How can we create the safe space for peopel to voice their opinion and than change actually occur. It can’t be solely on the people being harmed to lead us to become a better organization. We need to understand and support #blacklivesmatter #metoo and the various other social justice movements created to protect marginalized people. Teaching is not neutral. We are either anti-racist, anti-bigot, anti-hate or we allow the system to keep oppressing marginalized people.
  8. Produce resources that Physical Education and Health teachers can use tomorrow. Get the people doing fantastic things out there and bring them in.
  9. If you are affiliated with SHAPE America Read the books Social Justice in Physical Education and White Fragility. #ClearTheAir will be discussing White Fragility in the fall on Twitter. Come join us!! These will give you a nice base to address intersectionality in Physical Education and Health. You are the leader in your own growth. Read and learn.
  10. My final actionable step for SHAPE America is …. DO SOMETHING!!!! DO ANYTHING!!!! Don’t let this become another check box!

My final thoughts are for the SHAPE America affiliates that will read this. I am here to provide what I believe is necessary critical feedback for us to grow. I am doing or have done everything I am asking of you. Please learn about intersectionality and change the organization for the better. Our teachers and students need you to. If not, you as an organization, will continue to harm the 50 million (students) strong you are trying to reach by continuing to be complicit in the system of oppression you have participated in for the last 133 years. Stephanie and Judy I place this burden squarely on your shoulders. The buck starts with you. Where will SHAPE be in one year? What steps will they have taken. You have started to talk the talk. Now when the rubber meets the road let’s see if you will walk the walk.

Proper English in #PhysEd

Language is the most important form of privilege that I have. I know this because during a Tolerance.org workshop we had a list of the top ten things that made us who we are.  Item by item I crossed off every other part of me by importance until I was left with only language. I think and speak in Proper English. Lies. I use standard English. There is nothing proper about some of the language that comes out of my mouth! I say standard English because according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “A standard language is a variety of language that is used by governments, in the media, in schools, and for international communication”. I came across a fantastic blog and podcast by the Grammar Girl. It goes into the history of English and how we ended up with the idea that those who don’t speak the dominant version are less intelligent than those who do.

There are other dialects of English that are spoken. I say dialect because a dialect is, “A form of the language that is spoken in a particular part of the country or by a particular group of people.” (link) One dialect is African American Vernacular English (AAVE) also known as Black English Vernacular and sometimes ebonics. AAVE is a structured version of English. It is, “…the result of regular rules and restrictions; they are not random ‘error’. (link) This means that people who speak AAVE are speaking a language that has structure. This is not an unintelligent language. 

Another dialect is Appalachian English also called Mountain Language. Here is a video if you have never heard this dialect spoken before. “Appalachian English has long been criticized both within and outside of the speaking area as an inferior dialect, which is often mistakenly attributed to supposed laziness, lack of education, or the region’s relative isolation.” (link) We see the idea again that those who don’t speak standard English are lazy or dumb.

I gave you that quick background on language to get to this. What kind of language do we expect to be spoken in our classes? I work in a school and the language I speak and the language school demands are identical. This allows me to think and speak in a relatively free and quick manner. I also attended schools where standard English was the dominant language. I was born and raised in the dominant language. It is a blanket of invisibility that follows me everywhere I go. It is very easy for me to settle into the role of oppressor and demand that my students speak in standard English.

School demands that the students speak standard English. The tests are written that way. Most teachers speak that way. I understand why students need to learn standard English. In the book Exceptional Learners the author states, “Failure to teach children the skills they need to communicate effectively according to the rules of the dominant culture will deny them many opportunities.” Our students will need to speak the dominant language in order to enter into the various areas of white supremacy in the future. That is what the gatekeepers demand.

I am not a gatekeeper.  My class is not an arena where standard English is necessary. We do need to communicate and understand each other. This means that both myself and the student need to learn the meaning behind what the other is saying. If we are speaking different dialects we both need to learn how to communicate with the other. I do not teach English. I don’t feel the need to correct the dialect of my students. The dialect my students use does not impact my goal of them creating a positive association with the movement. I want them to think and question. Using standard English may actually get in the way of this. Some students may have to process my question, rephrase it in their dialect, think in their dialect, then rephrase it back to standard English. That is a lot of work to do on top of figuring out what I am asking them to think about.

The bottom line is that demanding my students speak like me and the system of school is a form of oppression. This has to be balanced with the idea that when they enter the workforce they will probably be forced to use standard English. When we center our students in this conversation it only makes sense that they have the freedom to be their authentic selves. Ask yourself what is your purpose of teaching. Is it necessary for the students to speak in the way school demands? Why do we demand our students speak a certain way?

A lot of teachers feel the need to prepare the students for the future. They will need this. They will need that. Truthfully they will need to love themselves presently before they do anything in the future. Forcing the assimilation of standard English is not helping students love themselves and their culture.

Some English teachers may have an issue with this blog. I don’t teach English and would not presume to tell you how to do your job. I would like to offer the idea that there are ideas that are written, sang, or spoken that are not in the dominant dialect. These still have value to our students. Do not throw out the baby with the bath water.

The final piece of this is the idea that if you speak AAVE or Appalachian English you may be perceived as being less intelligent. We do this with accents as well. Think about all the caricatures of people who speak with a Southern accent. This bias has to be addressed. Language and intelligence do not go hand in hand. The value of a human is not tied to their ability to speak standard English. Do not assume that because our students speak in a way that is not common in society that they are any less capable of learning than the student who speaks what we consider acceptable.